Working with families in early intervention is a rewarding area of service provision. Working in collaboration with families requires service providers to develop meaningful relationships which can be smooth or not so smooth. Oftentimes, the unique challenges of families require us to be sensitive to changing needs. In these moments, it is imperative for the provider to be able to self-reflect as well as reflecting on the emotional status of the family, and how those emotions are affecting the current situation.
The Fussy Baby Network (FBN) has developed a model called the "FAN" or Facilitating Attuned Interactions, which helps providers to become more attuned to the concerns, needs, and feelings of the families they serve to improve provider-parent relationships and promote reflective practice (Gilkerson, 2015). The overall goal of the FAN is to increase parent capacity and self-efficacy by supporting parents, rather than by doing for the parents. The FAN also aims to teach providers how to notice, understand, and regulate their own responses to challenging situations (Spielberger, Burkhardt, Winje, Gouvea, & Barisik, 2016).
The FAN is implemented in EI through the use of five core processes:
- Mindful Self-Regulation,
- Empathic Inquiry,
- Collaborative Exploration,
- Capacity Building, and
These core processes work together with the FAN’s Arc of Engagement (AOE), a set of reflective questions to help a provider structure their home visits for optimal results (Gilkerson & Imberger, 2016; Heffron et al., 2016).
Mindful self-regulation requires the provider to be aware of their own mental state and responses before and during a family encounter, and to use techniques such as breathing, self-talk, and imagery to keep themselves be balanced and present in the moment. (The AOE recommends asking, “How am I?” prior to starting an encounter).
Providers use Empathic inquiry when parents are visibly shaken and upset. The provider listens without judgment as the parent expresses frustration, concerns, anxiety, etc. During empathic inquiry, the provider actively listens, without attempting to “jump in” with immediate solutions. This helps the parent to feel heard, and establishes rapport with the provider.
During collaborative exploration the provider and caregiver work together to find solutions giving the parent more control, and helping them feel acknowledged, valued, and respected.
When a plan of action is decided upon, the provider and family then move into the process of capacity building. During this stage, the provider can give the family more information about how to best support their child. FBN recommends using an “offer and explore” method (Heffron et al., 2016), which entails the provider giving a “drop” of information to the parent, and then exploring what that information means to them. Questions like, “Does this make sense?” and “How does that fit with what you know about your child?” ensure that the parent is able to process and correctly use the information.
Finally, the process of integration involves the parent reflecting on the session, and what they want to remember about what they’ve learned/talked about that day. Throughout this process, the AOE gives providers time to stop and reflect, so that they can check-in with the parents regarding the session. Reflection and collaboration are at the core of the FAN, which with proper use, can help build strong, lasting relationships between providers and families.
The FAN method is well suited for early childhood intervention especially when coaching families. To be most effective in coaching providers must
- Be mindful of the situation: Mindful Self-Regulation
- Listen: Empathetic Inquiry
- Collaborate: Collaborative Exploration
- Share: Capacity Building
- Integrate: Integration
Gilkerson, L. Facilitating attuned interactions: using the FAN approach to family engagement. Zero to Three. Jan 2015; 46-48.
Spielberger, J, Burkhardt T, Winje C, Gouvea M, Barisik E. Evaluation of the fussy baby network advanced training: final report. Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago. 2016; 1-163.
Gilkerson L, Imberger J. Strengthening reflective capacity in skilled home visitors. Zero to Three. Nov 2016; 46-53.
Heffron MC, Gilkerson L, Cosgrove K, Heller SS, Imberger J, Leviton A… Wasserman K. Using the FAN approach to deepen trauma-informed care for infants, toddlers, and families. Zero to Three. July 2016; 27-35.
Latay Benson (GU Certificate in Early Intervention ’19; GWU, DPT ’19)